Monday, 22 January 2018

domino effect

We’ve encountered the commercial artwork of Theodore Geisel (Doctor Seuss) beforehand, including advertising for Exxon/Esso, but we hadn’t seen this series of signature complex contraptions from cartoonists and engineer Rube Goldberg, commissioned by a motor-oil company to promote fuel-efficiency and automotive maintenance during World War II. See more at the link above.

parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

Ever since learning to my horror that a seemingly innocent and well-intentioned campaign by a breakfast cereal company to include seeds to help the bees spread invasive plants that would actually cause more harm to their environment, I’ve been a little wary of consumables that purport to support the ecosystem, but these clever lollipops that we discover via Everlasting Blört seem to be the genuine article. After enjoying the candy (certainly more appetising than these ecological treats)—whose flavour is the essence of the heirloom seeds that come with it—one can plant the biodegradable stick to grow flowers and herbs.


Via the always brilliant Nag on the Lake, we are referred to The Awl—for what may sadly be one of the last times with the property’s announcement that it will cease publication at the end of this month—for another lesson on colours with a non-specific hue called haint blue.

Like the folklore traditions that inform the vague but undoubtedly menacing concept of a haint, which may be etymologically related to haunt but has developed but has come to signify something other than the syncretic meanings it has taken on, the colour too isn’t defined as a shade but rather by how its employed. The analogy to the collected palette classed as Millennial Pink is a good one that underscores how we privilege such trends. Plantation houses in the southern United States, appropriating and blending the lore of the enslaved Gullah population—and upheld by custom many designers and decorators are unaware of—often painted the ceilings of porches and verandas blue—to trick restless spirits, haints, into believing that the nooks and corners were exposed to the sky above or surrounded by water and affording the home a degree of protection, like a talisman to ward off the evil eye.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

operation chrome dome

Fifty years ago today, a nuclear-armed B-52 stratofortress bomber was flying an alert mission over Greenland (well after America’s overtures to purchase the world’s largest island) and experienced a cabin fire that prompted six out of seven crew members to safely jettison and abandon the aircraft and its payload of four hydrogen bombs before it could reach the landing field at Thule.
The craft went down in the icy North Star Bay and the ensuing explosion of the fuselage and the conventional munitions on board caused the nuclear shells to rupture and contaminate the wider Bay of Baffin. The US and Denmark launched a massive containment and recovery effort that cost the equivalent of a billion dollars and one warhead was never recovered and the country’s tacit support of the deterrence exercises that kept twelve of such bombers aloft at all times (the US Strategic Air Command’s Chrome Dome) on the periphery of Soviet airspace was in direct violation of Denmark’s official anti-nuclear stance. Responders worked quickly to remove radioactive ice before the summer thaw that would have caused an even larger area to be impacted and hauled away tonnes of ice and debris during the extreme arctic winter in what was deemed officially Project Crested Ice (our faithful chronicler Doctor Caligari links to some news reel footage) but referred to by workers—many of whom later suffered radiation sickness—as Dr Freezelove in homage to the 1964 Stanley Kubrick release.

fortress of solitude

The UK has just minted a new cabinet position for the May government to redress “the sad reality of modern life”: loneliness.
There’s some rather alarming and sobering statistics behind this move which seems an efficient way of countering a whole host of potential (I add this for the misanthropes out there who would need to be persuaded that the cure is worse than the ailment with some random do-gooder popping round to keep you company) mental and physical ills and the office would be comprehensive and multidisciplinary, working across different public spheres to ensure mobility and genuine contact, perhaps even starting early on and pre-empting the pressure to self-segregate in schools not by kind or class but rather by a single-sighted push for competitiveness and modelling resolute and determined quitters—forever seeking out the next big thing. While I agree that it is a mark of maturity to recognise that we’ve moulded our society in such ways as to minimise casual human interaction—even investing more time and money into gadgets, occupations and industries that make actually talking to one another infinitely avoidable and superfluous, with the same party advocating austerity measures that undermined the commons and other civic institutions, I wonder how the work of the ministry will manifest itself. What do you think? I think trying to legislate togetherness and involvement over vanity projects is admirable but I hope the outreach is not through gimmickry—awareness pamphlets and a calendar’s worth of neighbourhood fetes that have just become venues for fly-by-night profiteers—and perhaps rather a bit of the isolating hair-of-the-dog that turns one’s network into a true social safety net.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

who are the people in your neighbourhood?

We enjoyed indulging a bit in Quartz’ latest obsession—nostalgia for the early internet before the rise of social media as distilled through GeoCities (previously)—later to be acquired by Yahoo!—as the dominate platform for user-generated content and interaction. We, like the article, had fun speculating on the dilettante nature of the early internet as a cul-de-sac for the weird and lament that loss—as for niche eBay—and wonder how it might have been without unnamed monoliths with too many adherents. How would our on-line landscape look today had secondary web generations never had arisen? Admittedly the decentralised web looks pretty raw and idiosyncratic and perhaps isolated but I still feel those labours of love are preferable to the atrocious and unreadable magazine that you and everyone you know rushes to print everyday.